Many churches want to know how they can engage the culture during the 2020 election cycle in the right way. First, they need to understand the difference between endorsing candidates and influencing public policy. These are two very different activities for churches. Churches must engage in affecting public policy, to ensure it is informed by the tenants of our beliefs.
In addition to influencing public policy, churches should motivate their congregations to vote according to the principles in God’s Word. Christians have the freedom as American citizens to vote people into office who share their beliefs and values. Often, Christians choose not to vote, however, because they feel their votes do not matter. Imagine the powerful influence Christians would have if all church members showed up to vote in 2020!
America has lost the mooring of God's Word in legislatures across the country. Christians need to re-engage in public policy debate in order to influence laws at both the state and federal levels. We can do this in the following ways:
- Educate yourself and your members on issues being considered and bills being debated at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Work to build relationships with legislators in your area, at the state capital, and in Washington, DC.
- Encourage your congregants to call or write their representatives and urge them to vote according to biblical values.
Of concern to pastors and churches is how to engage people during the election cycle without risking their 501(c)(3) status? People of faith must be involved in the political process, but political activities are limited for churches due to their IRS tax-exempt status. It is essential to know what your rights are.
- As a pastor, you have the right to speak personally concerning elections and particular candidates. Your 501(c)(3) status cannot be threatened by your right to personal freedom of speech in these areas.
- Your church may educate congregants, helping them understand what individual candidates believe about various issues, including distributing voting guides that score the majority of candidates on the issues.
- You may ask particular candidates to speak at your church, to give their testimony or present themselves as a candidate, as long as an official endorsement from the church does not follow the appearance.
- Pastors may advocate a certain position from the pulpit on relevant issues.
As Christians, our influence on elections is vitally important. We must do our part to elect leaders who abide by the principles of God’s Word. What a blessing it would be to see more Christians at the polls this year than in any election prior!
Voter Registration Drives
As you think through how to encourage and motivate your congregants to vote, point them to https://vote.gov/ to register. This is an easy process and can be completed online. And consider a voter registration drive or voter registration Sunday event to promote participation in Election Day 2020!
As pastors, it is important to ask God to put principled leaders into elected office and to encourage our people to do their part. By following the guidelines listed here, your church can positively impact local, state, and federal elections without compromising your tax-exempt status. God's Word says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” God is looking for His people to participate with Him in the task of bringing healing to our country.
Let’s pray that God will do a mighty work this election season and begin to bring real healing to our land.